London: Defeated but undaunted, UAE swimmer Mubarak Salem Al Bashir has now set qualifying for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro as his target.
Competing on the opening day of swimming, when American Dana Vollmer became the first person to break an Olympic record at the London Games, Al Bashir managed a time of 1:05.60 in the men’s 100m breaststroke heats.
That performance fell short of the UAE national record — a target Al Bashir set for himself before leaving to prepare for the Games in Barcelona, London and Italy more than two months back.
The UAE national record in the distance stands at 1:04.60, while the Olympic qualifying mark for London was 1:02.
Disappointed at missing out on his target, Al Bashir has now set himself a fresh target.
“I want to qualify for the Rio Olympics. I don’t want a wild card or an invitation,” the 24-year-old from Al Wasl said.
“I know the time I would need to qualify directly and my preparations will start from now on,” he promised.
Al Bashir was unhappy with the time he set at the majestic Aquatics Centre in London on Saturday.
“My time was not good at all,” he admitted.
“I really can’t explain anything, but it’s just that I felt I could not move in the last 20 metres of the race.
“This is my first time at an Olympics, so maybe I was too nervous from the experience of swimming in front of so many people. Maybe I didn’t focus more on the event,” he explained.
His coach Jay Benner, who was with him in London during this historic occasion had advised him to stay calm and relaxed.
“But I felt this sudden rush in the last 20 metres,” Al Bashir said.
“But I am still glad that I have gone through with it. This first time at an Olympics has been a great experience,” he smiled.
Next up for the UAE athlete is the Arab Swimming Championship to be held in Jordan at the end of August.
“I leave for Dubai within a day and start training for the Arab Championships. There is going to be no rest from now on. I have a goal and I wish to achieve it in four years’ time,” Al Bashir related.
“I will continue with my hard work and training. I know I can do this qualifying time of 1:02 if I continue working the way I am doing right now. I want to qualify to the Olympics on merit and I know I can do this,” he stressed.
“All I need now is work and have a set programme to achieve my goals.”
UAE Swimming Association executive director Ayman Sa’ad was also confident Al Bashir will improve.
“Mubarak is the best swimmer not just in the UAE but also in the Gulf area. I have no doubt that he will be the best swimmer in the Arab region as well,” Sa’ad said.
“He has kept on improving for the past two years and I think he can get even better by next year,” he added.